Maryland Dept. of Labor worker tells unemployed woman he’s swamped, can’t help her

Frustrations are boiling over as people continue to struggle to collect unemployment benefits in Maryland.

FOX 5 has obtained an email showing the extent that labor department employees are overwhelmed.

A woman shared a reply she got from a supervisor who told her:

“Due to the sheer volume of requests for help I must ask you to continue to pursue other means of assistance. I will try to help as many as possible but I have 1000 emails in my inbox in the last 24 hours. I cannot reasonably accommodate all those requests for help. I will try to continue to help those who have not received any benefits as much as possible but I will not be able respond to every email I receive nor attempt to assist in every request.”

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The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, had emailed the supervisor explaining that she applied for benefits over five weeks ago and had yet to receive a debit card or any confirmation she would get paid.

“I understand that they’re swamped and they’re overworked if you will, but that’s a completely unacceptable response,” said Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s Co.)

Davis chairs the Economic Matters committee which has legislative oversight of the labor department.

He said he’s organizing a full briefing with Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson.

"We simply can’t give that kind of answer. If that’s what they’re telling folks, we have a real problem. That’s certainly something we’re going to address at that briefing,” said Davis.

FOX 5 has requested an interview with Robinson every day for a week and tried to get questions answered on whether more employees are being hired to address the staggering demand.

Robinson briefed lawmakers Wednesday saying she is ramping up staff.

“We are working with a vendor to provide unemployment insurance professionals-200 of them,” Robinson said.

She said the state has 358,000 people a week applying for benefits, up from 29,000 pre-pandemic. Robinson said the state has paid out over $170 million in claims per week. She could not say how large the backlog is of people waiting for benefits.

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Last week, FOX 5 spoke to Bob Ciri about his struggle.

“Nothing has changed,” Ciri said Thursday.

He said he filed the first day the state’s new Beacon unemployment site went live, then got an email asking for more information. Since then, he’s waited, not knowing if or when he’ll see any money.

”There’s no communication. It’s sort of like going into the ether,” Ciri said. “It’s very stressful and it’s very frustrating.

Ciri said he’s reached out to his state lawmaker for help.

Davis said he’s been able to help some constituents get the answers they need and recommends people reach out to their lawmakers if they have no where else to turn.